Microsoft begins taking pre-orders for the Surface RT tablet, shipping October 26

A page briefly went online earlier this morning over at Microsoft’s online store, revealing possible prices for ARM-based Surface RT models. It wasn’t just a glitch in the system: Microsoft has officially announced it will begin taking pre-orders for the device later today at 12pm Eastern, 9pm Pacific. $499 buys you an entry-level Surface RT with 32 gigabytes of storage and a 10.6-inch display, but no Touch Cover – that’s an additional $119.

The Surface RT is initially available for pre-order in eight countries via Microsoft’s online store and is set to ship next Friday, October 26, alongside Windows 8 and three days after Apple’s rumored iPad mini keynote

You can pre-order your Surface now direct from Microsoft’s online stores in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The device will ship net Friday, October 26.

Each Surface includes a preview build of Office 2013 Home & Student Edition, to be updated to the final version for free once it’s available.

The software giant wrote in a media release that this is “a special limited-quantity pre-order for Surface with Windows RT”, suggesting launch supply could be limited.

The interesting looking Touch Cover is available in white, red, black, blue and purple and costs an additional $119.99, or $129.99 for the Type Cover (available only in black). A 64GB Surface RT includes a Touch Cover and costs a cool $699. A 32GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover is priced at $599.

Here’s a cool making of video.

The Verge reports that Microsoft will promote the heck out of Surface at its retail stores.

Not surprisingly, the Surface will be in the spotlight in Microsoft Stores — we spent some time at Microsoft’s “Store Zero” in Redmond, and the Surface is everywhere.

It’ll be on a display as soon as you walk in the door, lines the walls along with customer service stations to help people set up and learn the device, and occupies an enormous amount of floor space as well.

Add that to the ad campaign that began last night, and we’re betting it’s going to be hard to avoid Surface for the next few weeks.

Indeed, Microsoft reportedly plans to spend a whopping $1.8 billion towards promoting the Surface tablet and the upcoming Windows 8 software, making it the largest product launch in the history of the industry.

Here’s the inaugural Surface commercial.

The device features vapor-deposited magnesium chassis, it’s 9.3mm thin, weighs in at 1.5lbs and comes with a built-in kickstand, pictured above.

Price-wise, the 32GB Surface RT is designed to take on Apple’s entry-level 16GB iPad 3 head on. If our poll is anything to go by, Apple should not be overly concerned about the Surface, but should definitely pay notice because Microsoft is now a legitimate player in the tablet space.

At any rate, the Windows maker with the Surface tablet has raised the water line on its platform’s functionality.

Just out of curiosity: would you consider a Surface tablet?